This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns play another game at home when they take on the Dallas Cowboys. To help preview the Week 10 contest, I reached out to Kyle Barber from Baltimore Beatdown and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “It certainly doesn't feel like the Baltimore Ravens should be atop the AFC North at the half-way point of the season, but that's where they are at. Seeing how the team has played, can they hold on, or are there too many holes that you think either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati will pass them up?”
Even with the lack of pass rush, you're witnessing a Ravens defense capable of smothering the pass while also mauling tailbacks. If the pass rush figures it out and the offense can build itself into touchdowns the Ravens could really be something. This is a lot to ask for. I expect the Ravens to finish the season fighting for the wildcard more than the division though, the back half of the schedule really is tough.”
Chris: “Over the past two weeks, Terrence West had just 21 carries for 31 yards against the Jets and Steelers. I know the Ravens don't feature a dominant running game to begin with, but is there something deeper to the past two games' struggles?”
Kyle: “Injury problems and two stout matchups have been very disadvantageous. Also, Baltimore trying desperately to give Kenneth Dixon carries hasn't helped. The Ravens were missing 3/5 players on the line against the New York Jets, leaving the run game out to dry. Three backups against Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams is all but a deathwish. I don't believe Terrance ever passed the line of scrimmage before initial contact against New York. Against the Steelers is a different story. The line was back to all starters, but it's obvious Yanda and Stanley aren't 100%. We all watched James Harrison bully the rookie. Yanda was also in quite the contraption for his shoulder. But a really tough game against the Steelers and a healthy Cameron Hayward proved too formidable. Ravens-Steelers games are always tough, and it isn't surprising they sealed the run attack as Baltimore did to them. I don't think it's something deeper, it's the health problems of the line and lack of chemistry.”
Chris: “I don't think a lot of people would guess that the Ravens have the No. 2 ranked defense in the NFL right now, and it seems like a very complete unit. Is there a player or two who have really shined to help take the unit to the next level?”
Kyle: “The free agent pick-up of Eric Weddle helped to push Baltimore into the next level. His knowledge of the game combined with his skill creates a ripple effect, spreading to each secondary member. Another player to help strengthen Baltimore is Zachary Orr. Orr went from an undrafted free agent to now a starting linebacker opposite C.J. Mosley. His play completes what Baltimore desperately needed: a coverage linebacker. Both C.J. and Zach have grown in the coverage game which last season was embarrassing.”
Chris: “This game is being played on a short week for Thursday Night Football -- are there any key players who might not be available for health reasons?”
Kyle: “Biggest worries for Baltimore is guard Marshal Yanda. He has not participated in practice the past two days. While I'm confident he will play, it does make me nervous seeing him off the practice list. I know he's a veteran and his play speaks volumes, but his toughness always overshadowed. Another loss is Crockett Gillmore. He did not play last week and he's missed both practices so far. He's a big tight end that's very valuable in the run game, something Baltimore struggled with as you pointed out earlier.”
Chris: “The last time these two clubs played, Terrelle Pryor was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he tried to toss the ball to the official after making a catch, but the ball ended up hitting a Ravens defender. What did you think of the call at the time, and given how close that game was, how comfortable are you heading into Thursday Night that Baltimore will avoid being the first team to lose to Cleveland?”
Kyle: “I didn't like the call. I said it that day, the weak call helped Baltimore win. But I wouldn't be a Ravens fan if I didn't bring up Corey Coleman's 'TD catch'. His foot was out of bounds. Baltimore went into Cleveland thinking it was an easy walkthrough and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't fun watching this team think they were going to march through Cleveland for a quick Sunday trip, only to be in a great battle, sitting behind the eight ball. I'm obviously not thinking this game will be any easier than last game. Baltimore hasn't won a game by more than one score all season, I don't expect them to be changing that anytime soon. I'm confident in Baltimore winning this game, but I'm surely not betting my paychecks and standing by.”
Thanks again to Kyle for taking the time to answer my questions.